The holidays are a time of great joy, beauty, and excitement. The holidays can also be a time of increased stress, anxiety, and being generally overwhelmed. This is true for all of us, but especially for our kids who have difficulty with sensory processing. Here are some tips to help not only survive the holiday season, but hopefully let everyone enjoy all the season brings!


Have discussions with your child about what to expect. Routines (that your child thrives on) typically go out the window during the holidays. Explaining the plans for the day can help alleviate and sometimes head off anxiety and meltdowns from the changes. Let your child know that there will be lots of new sounds, smells, and sights. Keep it positive (we don’t want to create anxiety, we want to encourage excitement). Have your bag of tricks ready with toys, electronics, snacks, etc. If your child is easily overwhelmed by loud and unexpected noises bring noise canceling headphones. If you know your child will not like the food that is being served, bring along several snacks and a meal you know they like.

Preparation goes not only for your child, but family members as well. Sending an email to relatives and friends (especially those you don’t see often) about your child’s sensory needs can head off misunderstandings and potentially difficult situations. Often children with sensory processing difficulties do not like touch. Encourage family and friends to offer a high five rather than a hug. This allows your child to have some control and they are still interacting with others. Bring games/activities you know your child enjoys and allows for positive interactions.


Schedule breaks in your day. This can be as simple as taking a walk outside before a meal or service where your child is expected to be still. If a swing is available, this a a great way for your child to unwind. Take a drive to get out of the environment for a little while.
It’s okay to say no. Remember that the most important thing is that you do what is best for your family. If that means skipping out on some of the holiday festivities, give yourself permission to do so.
Give your child, your family, and yourself some grace. Don’t strive for having the perfect holiday! It doesn’t exist, and often it is the time of imperfection that leads to the lasting joyful memories.